Thursday, March 21st, 2019

Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services Story


TIDEWATER PASTORAL COUNSELING SERVICES

Offering hope, health and healing to all

by Rob Lauer


Staff members at Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services’ central office:  (left to right) Tracy Tittle; Executive Director Rev. Marty Phillips, LPC;  Sarah R. Massie, LPC, NCC; Cathy Townsend

Staff members at Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services’ central office: (left to right) Tracy Tittle; Executive Director Rev. Marty Phillips, LPC; Sarah R. Massie, LPC, NCC; Cathy Townsend

It has been said that no one gets through life unscathed.  Life’s difficulties coexist with life’s joys, and everyone at some point will have to deal with conflicts, uncertainty, grief and loneliness. If left unaddressed, these can lead to depression, anxiety, lack of self-worth and feelings of hopeless.

“We’ve been helping individuals, couples and families work through the hard times for 40 years,” Rev. Marty Phillips points out. A  licensed professional counselor (LPC), Marty serves as Executive Director of Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services. “We also sponsor support groups for those grieving the loss of a loved one, and for those who find themselves in the role of caretaker for elderly or ill family members.”

 “Some people are thrown by our name,” Marty admits with a warm smile. “They assume that we offer counseling to pastors—and yes, while we have done that, we’re here for anyone who wants to talk with a faith-based counselor.”


“From elementary school
through college,
students are stressed
because of all the expectations
placed on them.
Things are very different these days
than they were when I was in school
...Kids are feeling overwhelmed.”

  —Rev. Marty Phillips, LPC


Pastoral counseling is unique in that it pursues healing and growth by combining psychological understanding with spiritual resources. This counseling is provided by individuals who, in addition to being mental health professionals, have had in-depth religious or theological training.
“I’m a licensed professional counselor here in Virginia, but I’m also an ordained minister,” Marty explains. “Most of our counselors here at Tidewater Pastoral Counseling are ordained ministers.”

With counselors from a variety of faith traditions (Presbyterian, Episcopal, Baptist, Christian Church Disciples), not only is the agency ecumenical, it is one of only two agencies in Virginia that is accredited by the American Association of Pastoral Counselors.

“We have a total of twelve offices in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake and Suffolk,” Marty continues. “Because of our strong commitment to supporting local faith communities, all of our offices are located in churches.”

Despite this connection to area churches, Tidewater Pastoral Counseling offers its services to anyone—whether they belong to a faith community or not. The agency strives to keep counseling services affordable for everyone, and no one is ever turned away because of limited financial resources.

The word “pastor” comes from the Latin word for “shepherd” and is related to a Latin verb that means “to lead to a pasture, set to grazing, causing to be fed.” The ideas of leading and nurturing are central to pastoral counseling.

“In pastoral counseling we really take our time with the people we serve,” Marty explains. “We get to know them; get to know their significant others. We even get to know about their pets. “
“We help a lot of people who are dealing with grief,” he continues. “They may be dealing with loss of a spouse, a job, a marriage or a child. Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross famously outlined the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. We help people work through all those stages. But we also deal with issues regarding their faith.”

Often the pain, confusion and disorientation that follow the death of a loved one can be compounded by religious beliefs that people have accepted but never explored in depth. The result may be that they are angry at God for “taking their loved one.” Pastoral counselors are able to help people explore their ideas of God a bit more deeply so that their faith can become a source of strength rather than stress.

“Besides helping people work through their grief, we’re also seeing a lot more students in recent years,” Marty observes. “From elementary school through college, students are stressed because of all the expectations placed on them. Things are very different these days than they were when I was in school.  Students—and their parents—are being constantly told that good grades, extra-curricular activities and community service are essential to long-term career goals. Kids are feeling overwhelmed.”

“We’re also seeing more people who are dealing with having to care for aging parents and spouses.” Marty continues. “Many are trying to figure out how best to hold down a job and see to their own needs while caring for their parents. That can be very stressful, even if their parents are in an assisted living facility. If their parents are living in another state, that separation can add another layer of worry to an already stressful situation.”


“As wonderful as the holidays are,
they are extremely challenging
to those who are dealing
with the loss of a loved one...
The holidays are supposed to be
a happy time of year,
but there are many people who,
for perfectly good reasons, say,
‘I’m just not feeling very happy.’”

                 —Rev. Marty Phillips, LPC


The agency is often busier during the holiday season. “As wonderful as the holidays are, they are extremely challenging to those who are dealing with the loss of a loved one,” Marty explains. “It’s also a time of year when loss of financial resources is keenly felt.  Kids are nearly half-way through the school year, so if they’re struggling with grades, that can be an additional source of stress. The holidays are supposed to be a happy time of year, but there are many people who, for perfectly good reasons, say, ‘I’m just not feeling very happy.’”

“As people of faith, we need to evolve in our thinking about depression,” Marty says, “and deal with it in the same way we deal with heart attacks—as a health-issue that can be treated.” To that end, the agency sponsors programing aimed at raising awareness of depression and suicide.

Future events dealing with forgiveness are also being planned. “That’s an issue we all deal with in one way or another,” Marty observes. “We need to ask ourselves whether we want to carry around feelings of anger and resentment, or let them go.”

Though offering faith-based counseling, Marty insists that councilors do not, in any way, force beliefs on the people they serve.

“We are not heavy handed,” he says. “Some people might ask for prayer while some might request guidance from scripture. Others don’t want either of those—which is perfectly fine. We respect their wishes. We are here to help people deal with life’s difficulties and challenges—no matter who they are or what they believe. We have no other objective. We keep our focus on three things: hope, health and healing. We believe this a place where people can find hope and health; a place where they can experience healing.”




Tidewater Pastoral Counseling

7305 Hampton Blvd.
Norfolk, VA 23505

757-623-2700

Offices in Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake and Suffolk